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Firm in court after worker's life-changing injuries

Date:
15 May 2013

Wienerberger Limited has been fined for safety failings after a worker suffered multiple injuries when he fell from the roof of an industrial brick oven at a site in Bishop Auckland.

David Snow, 56, sustained a fractured skull and several breaks to his left leg in the incident at the company’s brick manufacturing plant on 18 January 2012.

He has since needed major and on-going reconstructive surgery and more than a year later, Mr Snow, a former keen golfer and dog-walker, relies on crutches or a wheelchair to move about.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigated the incident, at the now-mothballed site in Eldon Lane, and prosecuted Wienerberger Ltd at Darlington Magistrates’ Court today (8 May).

The court heard Mr Snow, a kiln operator, was standing on the top of the large oven trying to release the exit door that had been jamming half-open since the Christmas shutdown. As he tried to free the jam, he lost his balance and fell some three metres to the floor.

HSE found the firm failed to provide any safety measures to control the risks of falling from height and failed to provide a safe system of work for releasing the jammed oven door.

Wienerberger Limited, Weinerberger House, Brooks Drive, Cheadle, Cheshire, pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and were fined £13,500 and ordered to pay £4,190.70 costs.

After the hearing, HSE Inspector Michael Kingston said:

"Mr Snow suffered major, life changing injuries as a result of this incident, but there was a real possibility that his fall could have been fatal.

"Weinerberger Ltd was aware of the oven door jamming but failed to put an engineering solution in place until after the incident. In addition no edge protection or any simple precautionary measures were provided temporarily to prevent Mr Snow, or any other employee, falling almost three metres to the factory floor.

"Falls from height continue to be the main cause of workplace fatalities even though simple and inexpensive measures can be implemented to avoid putting employees at risk."

Guidance for employers can be found here http://www.hse.gov.uk/falls/

Notes to editors

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice, promoting training, new or revised regulations and codes of practice, and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement. www.hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 states: "It shall be the duty of every employer to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees."

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